Is war reporting too dangerous for women?Posted: February 22, 2011
Since the assault on Lara Logan in Egypt last week, many commentators have again been suggesting that reporting on conflict is too dangerous for women. The bbc has reported special safety advice for female journalists. I don’t want to talk about Lara Logan, but I do want do think about why people are asking this question.
Yes, reporting on conflicts is dangerous. As is reporting on a number of other issues. Travelling in small groups, standing out as an obvious foreigner, amongst people who are under huge pressure and trained to be violent.
People could ask if it’s too dangerous for western journalists. We could rely on local people, but we seem to value our own journalists opinions and way of presenting. And enough people chose to go to war zones, keen to ensure people’s stories are told around the world. It’s rarely questioned publicly whether western journalists should report from dangerous zones. And yet, it is asked whether it’s too dangerous for women.
One of the thing that alarms me most about this question being asked, is where do we stop? Politics can be hugely dangerous – Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 – so should we ask if women should be removed from politics. Then there’s the armed services, police, fire fighters. How far should we go to protect women? Long hours can be stressful and take a toll on your health, so should women be protected from careers such as law that demand long hours? It doesn’t seem a big leap from asking “Is war reporting too dangerous for women” to “a woman’s place is in the home”.
But we all know, that the world isn’t a safe place. Women’s Aid tells us that on average, two women every week are killed by a current or former partner. Rape crisis states that 23% of women will face some sort of sexual assault as an adult. Staying home won’t keep women safe, so why should we look to limit the careers women can choose.
The question also seems to be often confused with “is war reporting too dangerous for parents”. Not all women are parents, and not all parents are women. In fact, about half of all parents are men. So please, let’s ask the right question. “Is war reporting too dangerous for parents?” And again, this sets a dangerous present. Is there an age that children reach when it becomes ok to loose a parent? And what about people with parents living – knowing your child is in danger as a reporter must be horrible. Or people in a relationship? Perhaps war reporting should only be carried out by celibate orphans?
Except the reason we like getting our news from western reporters is that they are able to report the news from our perspective. They’re able to explain it to us in a way local people can’t, as they understand our previous experience. Which means we can understand the experiences and events from around the world.
If we want this understanding, we need reporters who are, in some ways at least, “like us”. We want women reporters. We want people with relationships and families. We want people who understand our lives, so they can tell us about other people’s lives in a context we will recognise.
War reporting is dangerous. We are lucky that people want to do it, to tell stories we wouldn’t otherwise hear. To put pressure on our politicians to use their influence around the world. And no, war reporting is not too dangerous for women.